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Archive for the ‘Immuno-Oncology & Genomics’ Category


Yet another Success Story: Machine Learning to predict immunotherapy response

Curator and Reporter: Dr. Premalata Pati, Ph.D., Postdoc

Immune-checkpoint blockers (ICBs) immunotherapy appears promising for various cancer types, offering a durable therapeutic advantage. Only a number of cases with cancer respond to this therapy. Biomarkers are required to adequately predict the responses of patients. This article evaluates this issue utilizing a system method to characterize the immune response of the anti-tumor based on the entire tumor environment. Researchers build mechanical biomarkers and cancer-specific response models using interpretable machine learning that predict the response of patients to ICB.

The lymphatic and immunological systems help the body defend itself by combating. The immune system functions as the body’s own personal police force, hunting down and eliminating pathogenic baddies.

According to Federica Eduati, Department of Biomedical Engineering at TU/e, “The immune system of the body is quite adept at detecting abnormally behaving cells. Cells that potentially grow into tumors or cancer in the future are included in this category. Once identified, the immune system attacks and destroys the cells.”

Immunotherapy and machine learning are combining to assist the immune system solve one of its most vexing problems: detecting hidden tumorous cells in the human body.

It is the fundamental responsibility of our immune system to identify and remove alien invaders like bacteria or viruses, but also to identify risks within the body, such as cancer. However, cancer cells have sophisticated ways of escaping death by shutting off immune cells. Immunotherapy can reverse the process, but not for all patients and types of cancer. To unravel the mystery, Eindhoven University of Technology researchers used machine learning. They developed a model to predict whether immunotherapy will be effective for a patient using a simple trick. Even better, the model outperforms conventional clinical approaches.

The outcomes of this research are published on 30th June, 2021 in the journal Patterns in an article entitled “Interpretable systems biomarkers predict response to immune-checkpoint inhibitors”.

The Study

  • Characterization of the tumor microenvironment from RNAseq and prior knowledge
  • Multi-task machine-learning models for predicting antitumor immune responses
  • Identification of cancer-type-specific, interpretable biomarkers of immune responses
  • EaSIeR is a tool to predict biomarker-based immunotherapy response from RNA-seq

“Tumor also contains multiple types of immune and fibroblast cells which can play a role in favor of or anti-tumor, and communicates among themselves,” said Oscar Lapuente-Santana, a researcher doctoral student in the computational biology group. “We had to learn how complicated regulatory mechanisms in the micro-environment of the tumor affect the ICB response. We have used RNA sequencing datasets to depict numerous components of the Tumor Microenvironment (TME) in a high-level illustration.”

Using computational algorithms and datasets from previous clinical patient care, the researchers investigated the TME.

Eduati explained

While RNA-sequencing databases are publically available, information on which patients responded to ICB therapy is only available for a limited group of patients and cancer types. So, to tackle the data problem, we used a trick.

All 100 models learned in the randomized cross-validation were included in the EaSIeR tool. For each validation dataset, we used the corresponding cancer-type-specific model: SKCM for the melanoma Gide, Auslander, Riaz, and Liu cohorts; STAD for the gastric cancer Kim cohort; BLCA for the bladder cancer Mariathasan cohort; and GBM for the glioblastoma Cloughesy cohort. To make predictions for each job, the average of the 100 cancer-type-specific models was employed. The predictions of each dataset’s cancer-type-specific models were also compared to models generated for the remaining 17 cancer types.

From the same datasets, the researchers selected several surrogate immunological responses to be used as a measure of ICB effectiveness.

Lapuente-Santana stated

One of the most difficult aspects of our job was properly training the machine learning models. We were able to fix this by looking at alternative immune responses during the training process.

Some of the researchers employed the machine learning approach given in the paper to participate in the “Anti-PD1 Response Prediction DREAM Challenge.”

DREAM is an organization that carries out crowd-based tasks with biomedical algorithms. “We were the first to compete in one of the sub-challenges under the name cSysImmunoOnco team,” Eduati remarks.

The researchers noted,

We applied machine learning to seek for connections between the obtained system-based attributes and the immune response, estimated using 14 predictors (proxies) derived from previous publications. We treated these proxies as individual tasks to be predicted by our machine learning models, and we employed multi-task learning algorithms to jointly learn all tasks.

The researchers discovered that their machine learning model surpasses biomarkers that are already utilized in clinical settings to evaluate ICB therapies.

But why are Eduati, Lapuente-Santana, and their colleagues using mathematical models to tackle a medical treatment problem? Is this going to take the place of the doctor?

Eduati explains

Mathematical models can provide an overview of the interconnection between individual molecules and cells and at the same time predicting a particular patient’s tumor behavior. This implies that immunotherapy with ICB can be personalized in a patient’s clinical setting. The models can aid physicians with their decisions about optimum therapy, it is vital to note that they will not replace them.

Furthermore, the model aids in determining which biological mechanisms are relevant for the biological response.

The researchers noted

Another advantage of our concept is that it does not need a dataset with known patient responses to immunotherapy for model training.

Further testing is required before these findings may be implemented in clinical settings.

Main Source:

Lapuente-Santana, Ó., van Genderen, M., Hilbers, P. A., Finotello, F., & Eduati, F. (2021). Interpretable systems biomarkers predict response to immune-checkpoint inhibitorsPatterns, 100293. https://www.cell.com/patterns/pdfExtended/S2666-3899(21)00126-4

Other Related Articles published in this Open Access Online Scientific Journal include the following:

Inhibitory CD161 receptor recognized as a potential immunotherapy target in glioma-infiltrating T cells by single-cell analysis

Reporter: Dr. Premalata Pati, Ph.D., Postdoc

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2021/02/20/inhibitory-cd161-receptor-identified-in-glioma-infiltrating-t-cells-by-single-cell-analysis-2/

Immunotherapy may help in glioblastoma survival

Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2019/03/16/immunotherapy-may-help-in-glioblastoma-survival/

Deep Learning for In-silico Drug Discovery and Drug Repurposing: Artificial Intelligence to search for molecules boosting response rates in Cancer Immunotherapy: Insilico Medicine @John Hopkins University

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2016/07/17/deep-learning-for-in-silico-drug-discovery-and-drug-repurposing-artificial-intelligence-to-search-for-molecules-boosting-response-rates-in-cancer-immunotherapy-insilico-medicine-john-hopkins-univer/

Machine Learning (ML) in cancer prognosis prediction helps the researcher to identify multiple known as well as candidate cancer diver genes

Curator and Reporter: Dr. Premalata Pati, Ph.D., Postdoc

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2021/05/04/machine-learning-ml-in-cancer-prognosis-prediction-helps-the-researcher-to-identify-multiple-known-as-well-as-candidate-cancer-diver-genes/

AI System Used to Detect Lung Cancer

Reporter: Irina Robu, PhD

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2019/06/28/ai-system-used-to-detect-lung-cancer/

Cancer detection and therapeutics

Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2016/05/02/cancer-detection-and-therapeutics/

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Renal tumor macrophages linked to recurrence are identified using single-cell protein activity analysis

Curator and Reporter: Dr. Premalata Pati, Ph.D., Postdoc

When malignancy returns after a period of remission, it is called a cancer recurrence. After the initial or primary cancer has been treated, this can happen weeks, months, or even years later. The possibility of recurrence is determined by the type of primary cancer. Because small patches of cancer cells might stay in the body after treatment, cancer might reoccur. These cells may multiply and develop large enough to cause symptoms or cause cancer over time. The type of cancer determines when and where cancer recurs. Some malignancies have a predictable recurrence pattern.

Even if primary cancer recurs in a different place of the body, recurrent cancer is designated for the area where it first appeared. If breast cancer recurs distantly in the liver, for example, it is still referred to as breast cancer rather than liver cancer. It’s referred to as metastatic breast cancer by doctors. Despite treatment, many people with kidney cancer eventually develop cancer recurrence and incurable metastatic illness.

The most frequent type of kidney cancer is Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC). RCC is responsible for over 90% of all kidney malignancies. The appearance of cancer cells when viewed under a microscope helps to recognize the various forms of RCC. Knowing the RCC subtype can help the doctor assess if the cancer is caused by an inherited genetic condition and help to choose the best treatment option. The three most prevalent RCC subtypes are as follows:

  • Clear cell RCC
  • Papillary RCC
  • Chromophobe RCC

Clear Cell RCC (ccRCC) is the most prevalent subtype of RCC. The cells are clear or pale in appearance and are referred to as the clear cell or conventional RCC. Around 70% of people with renal cell cancer have ccRCC. The rate of growth of these cells might be sluggish or rapid. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), clear cell RCC responds favorably to treatments like immunotherapy and treatments that target specific proteins or genes.

Researchers at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons have developed a novel method for identifying which patients are most likely to have cancer relapse following surgery.

The study

Their findings are detailed in a study published in the journal Cell entitled, “Single-Cell Protein Activity Analysis Identifies Recurrence-Associated Renal Tumor Macrophages.” The researchers show that the presence of a previously unknown type of immune cell in kidney tumors can predict who will have cancer recurrence.

According to co-senior author Charles Drake, MD, PhD, adjunct professor of medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center,

the findings imply that the existence of these cells could be used to identify individuals at high risk of disease recurrence following surgery who may be candidates for more aggressive therapy.

As Aleksandar Obradovic, an MD/PhD student at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and the study’s co-first author, put it,

it’s like looking down over Manhattan and seeing that enormous numbers of people from all over travel into the city every morning. We need deeper details to understand how these different commuters engage with Manhattan residents: who are they, what do they enjoy, where do they go, and what are they doing?

To learn more about the immune cells that invade kidney cancers, the researchers employed single-cell RNA sequencing. Obradovic remarked,

In many investigations, single-cell RNA sequencing misses up to 90% of gene activity, a phenomenon known as gene dropout.

The researchers next tackled gene dropout by designing a prediction algorithm that can identify which genes are active based on the expression of other genes in the same family. “Even when a lot of data is absent owing to dropout, we have enough evidence to estimate the activity of the upstream regulator gene,” Obradovic explained. “It’s like when playing ‘Wheel of Fortune,’ because I can generally figure out what’s on the board even if most of the letters are missing.”

The meta-VIPER algorithm is based on the VIPER algorithm, which was developed in Andrea Califano’s group. Califano is the head of Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center’s JP Sulzberger Columbia Genome Center and the Clyde and Helen Wu professor of chemistry and systems biology. The researchers believe that by including meta-VIPER, they will be able to reliably detect the activity of 70% to 80% of all regulatory genes in each cell, eliminating cell-to-cell dropout.

Using these two methods, the researchers were able to examine 200,000 tumor cells and normal cells in surrounding tissues from eleven patients with ccRCC who underwent surgery at Columbia’s urology department.

The researchers discovered a unique subpopulation of immune cells that can only be found in tumors and is linked to disease relapse after initial treatment. The top genes that control the activity of these immune cells were discovered through the VIPER analysis. This “signature” was validated in the second set of patient data obtained through a collaboration with Vanderbilt University researchers; in this second set of over 150 patients, the signature strongly predicted recurrence.

These findings raise the intriguing possibility that these macrophages are not only markers of more risky disease, but may also be responsible for the disease’s recurrence and progression,” Obradovic said, adding that targeting these cells could improve clinical outcomes

Drake said,

Our research shows that when the two techniques are combined, they are extremely effective at characterizing cells within a tumor and in surrounding tissues, and they should have a wide range of applications, even beyond cancer research.

Main Source

Single-cell protein activity analysis identifies recurrence-associated renal tumor macrophages

https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(21)00573-0

Other Related Articles published in this Open Access Online Scientific Journal include the following:

Machine Learning (ML) in cancer prognosis prediction helps the researcher to identify multiple known as well as candidate cancer diver genes

Curator and Reporter: Dr. Premalata Pati, Ph.D., Postdoc

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2021/05/04/machine-learning-ml-in-cancer-prognosis-prediction-helps-the-researcher-to-identify-multiple-known-as-well-as-candidate-cancer-diver-genes/

Renal (Kidney) Cancer: Connections in Metabolism at Krebs cycle  and Histone Modulation

Curator: Demet Sag, PhD, CRA, GCP

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2015/10/14/renal-kidney-cancer-connections-in-metabolism-at-krebs-cycle-through-histone-modulation/

Artificial Intelligence: Genomics & Cancer

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/ai-in-genomics-cancer/

Bioinformatic Tools for Cancer Mutational Analysis: COSMIC and Beyond

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2015/12/02/bioinformatic-tools-for-cancer-mutational-analysis-cosmic-and-beyond-2/

Deep-learning AI algorithm shines new light on mutations in once obscure areas of the genome

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2014/12/24/deep-learning-ai-algorithm-shines-new-light-on-mutations-in-once-obscure-areas-of-the-genome/

Premalata Pati, PhD, PostDoc in Biological Sciences, Medical Text Analysis with Machine Learning

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2021-medical-text-analysis-nlp/premalata-pati-phd-postdoc-in-pharmaceutical-sciences-medical-text-analysis-with-machine-learning/

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Live Notes, Real Time Conference Coverage 2020 AACR Virtual Meeting April 28, 2020 Symposium: New Drugs on the Horizon Part 3 12:30-1:25 PM

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD

New Drugs on the Horizon: Part 3
Introduction

Andrew J. Phillips, C4 Therapeutics

  • symposium brought by AACR CICR and had about 30 proposals for talks and chose three talks
  • unfortunately the networking event is not possible but hope to see you soon in good health

ABBV-184: A novel survivin specific T cell receptor/CD3 bispecific therapeutic that targets both solid tumor and hematological malignancies

Edward B Reilly
AbbVie Inc. @abbvie

  • T-cell receptors (TCR) can recognize the intracellular targets whereas antibodies only recognize the 25% of potential extracellular targets
  • survivin is expressed in multiple cancers and correlates with poor survival and prognosis
  • CD3 bispecific TCR to survivn (Ab to CD3 on T- cells and TCR to survivin on cancer cells presented in MHC Class A3)
  • ABBV184  effective in vivo in lung cancer models as single agent;
  • in humanized mouse tumor models CD3/survivin bispecific can recruit T cells into solid tumors; multiple immune cells CD4 and CD8 positive T cells were found to infiltrate into tumor
  • therapeutic window as measured by cytokine release assays in tumor vs. normal cells very wide (>25 fold)
  • ABBV184 does not bind platelets and has good in vivo safety profile
  • First- in human dose determination trial: used in vitro cancer cell assays to determine 1st human dose
  • looking at AML and lung cancer indications
  • phase 1 trial is underway for safety and efficacy and determine phase 2 dose
  • survivin has very few mutations so they are not worried about a changing epitope of their target TCR peptide of choice

The discovery of TNO155: A first in class SHP2 inhibitor

Matthew J. LaMarche
Novartis @Novartis

  • SHP2 is an intracellular phosphatase that is upstream of MEK ERK pathway; has an SH2 domain and PTP domain
  • knockdown of SHP2 inhibits tumor growth and colony formation in soft agar
  • 55 TKIs there are very little phosphatase inhibitors; difficult to target the active catalytic site; inhibitors can be oxidized at the active site; so they tried to target the two domains and developed an allosteric inhibitor at binding site where three domains come together and stabilize it
  • they produced a number of chemical scaffolds that would bind and stabilize this allosteric site
  • block the redox reaction by blocking the cysteine in the binding site
  • lead compound had phototoxicity; used SAR analysis to improve affinity and reduce phototox effects
  • was very difficult to balance efficacy, binding properties, and tox by adjusting stuctures
  • TNO155 is their lead into trials
  • SHP2 expressed in T cells and they find good combo with I/O with uptick of CD8 cells
  • TNO155 is very selective no SHP1 inhibition; SHP2 can autoinhibit itself when three domains come together and stabilize; no cross reactivity with other phosphatases
  • they screened 1.5 million compounds and got low hit rate so that is why they needed to chemically engineer and improve on the classes they found as near hits

Closing Remarks

 

Xiaojing Wang
Genentech, Inc. @genentech

Follow on Twitter at:

@pharma_BI

@AACR

@CureCancerNow

@pharmanews

@BiotechWorld

@HopkinsMedicine

#AACR20

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19th Annual Koch Institute Summer Symposium on Cancer Immunotherapy, June 12, 2020 at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

 

 

Summer Symposium 2020

Engineering the Next Wave of Immunotherapy

The 19th Annual Koch Institute Summer Symposium on June 12, 2020 at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium will focus on cancer immunotherapy.

Cancer immunotherapy has revolutionized the landscape of cancer treatment, our thinking of tumor biology and clinical practice. Following the groundbreaking successes of checkpoint blockade therapy and CAR T cell therapy, culminating in multiple FDA-approved treatments and the awarding of the 2018  Nobel Prize in Medicine to Jim Allison and Tasuku Honjo, the field is currently at a critical juncture.

While checkpoint blockade therapy has demonstrated that the immune system can be harnessed to fight cancer,  the next generation of treatments will require us to understand what causes resistance in non-responders, how this can be overcome, and how these issues are best addressed clinically. Discussing these questions will be at the core of this symposium as we move towards our ultimate goal to increase the number of patients benefiting from immunotherapy

Session Speakers


Targeting T Cells
Rafi Ahmed, Michael Dougan, Chris Love

Thinking Beyond T Cells
Angelika Amon, Yasemine Belkaid, Stefani Spranger

Engineering Clinical Translation  
Nina Bhardwaj, Chris Garcia

Panel Discussion: Clinical Translation: A Real Life Perspective


Daniel Chen, Howard Kaufman, Kimberly Schaefer-Weaver
Moderator: Steven Silverstein

SOURCE

https://ki.mit.edu/news/events/symposium/2020

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Medicine in 2045 – Perspectives by World Thought Leaders in the Life Sciences & Medicine

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

 

This report is based on an article in Nature Medicine | VOL 25 | December 2019 | 1800–1809 | http://www.nature.com/naturemedicine

Looking forward 25 years: the future of medicine.

Nat Med 25, 1804–1807 (2019) doi:10.1038/s41591-019-0693-y

 

Aviv Regev, PhD

Core member and chair of the faculty, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; director, Klarman Cell Observatory, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; professor of biology, MIT; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; founding co-chair, Human Cell Atlas.

  • millions of genome variants, tens of thousands of disease-associated genes, thousands of cell types and an almost unimaginable number of ways they can combine, we had to approximate a best starting point—choose one target, guess the cell, simplify the experiment.
  • In 2020, advances in polygenic risk scores, in understanding the cell and modules of action of genes through genome-wide association studies (GWAS), and in predicting the impact of combinations of interventions.
  • we need algorithms to make better computational predictions of experiments we have never performed in the lab or in clinical trials.
  • Human Cell Atlas and the International Common Disease Alliance—and in new experimental platforms: data platforms and algorithms. But we also need a broader ecosystem of partnerships in medicine that engages interaction between clinical experts and mathematicians, computer scientists and engineers

Feng Zhang, PhD

investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; core member, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; James and Patricia Poitras Professor of Neuroscience, McGovern Institute for Brain Research, MIT.

  • fundamental shift in medicine away from treating symptoms of disease and toward treating disease at its genetic roots.
  • Gene therapy with clinical feasibility, improved delivery methods and the development of robust molecular technologies for gene editing in human cells, affordable genome sequencing has accelerated our ability to identify the genetic causes of disease.
  • 1,000 clinical trials testing gene therapies are ongoing, and the pace of clinical development is likely to accelerate.
  • refine molecular technologies for gene editing, to push our understanding of gene function in health and disease forward, and to engage with all members of society

Elizabeth Jaffee, PhD

Dana and Albert “Cubby” Broccoli Professor of Oncology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; deputy director, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins.

  • a single blood test could inform individuals of the diseases they are at risk of (diabetes, cancer, heart disease, etc.) and that safe interventions will be available.
  • developing cancer vaccines. Vaccines targeting the causative agents of cervical and hepatocellular cancers have already proven to be effective. With these technologies and the wealth of data that will become available as precision medicine becomes more routine, new discoveries identifying the earliest genetic and inflammatory changes occurring within a cell as it transitions into a pre-cancer can be expected. With these discoveries, the opportunities to develop vaccine approaches preventing cancers development will grow.

Jeremy Farrar, OBE FRCP FRS FMedSci

Director, Wellcome Trust.

  • shape how the culture of research will develop over the next 25 years, a culture that cares more about what is achieved than how it is achieved.
  • building a creative, inclusive and open research culture will unleash greater discoveries with greater impact.

John Nkengasong, PhD

Director, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • To meet its health challenges by 2050, the continent will have to be innovative in order to leapfrog toward solutions in public health.
  • Precision medicine will need to take center stage in a new public health order— whereby a more precise and targeted approach to screening, diagnosis, treatment and, potentially, cure is based on each patient’s unique genetic and biologic make-up.

Eric Topol, MD

Executive vice-president, Scripps Research Institute; founder and director, Scripps Research Translational Institute.

  • In 2045, a planetary health infrastructure based on deep, longitudinal, multimodal human data, ideally collected from and accessible to as many as possible of the 9+ billion people projected to then inhabit the Earth.
  • enhanced capabilities to perform functions that are not feasible now.
  • AI machines’ ability to ingest and process biomedical text at scale—such as the corpus of the up-to-date medical literature—will be used routinely by physicians and patients.
  • the concept of a learning health system will be redefined by AI.

Linda Partridge, PhD

Professor, Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing.

  • Geroprotective drugs, which target the underlying molecular mechanisms of ageing, are coming over the scientific and clinical horizons, and may help to prevent the most intractable age-related disease, dementia.

Trevor Mundel, MD

President of Global Health, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

  • finding new ways to share clinical data that are as open as possible and as closed as necessary.
  • moving beyond drug donations toward a new era of corporate social responsibility that encourages biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies to offer their best minds and their most promising platforms.
  • working with governments and multilateral organizations much earlier in the product life cycle to finance the introduction of new interventions and to ensure the sustainable development of the health systems that will deliver them.
  • deliver on the promise of global health equity.

Josep Tabernero, MD, PhD

Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO); president, European Society for Medical Oncology (2018–2019).

  • genomic-driven analysis will continue to broaden the impact of personalized medicine in healthcare globally.
  • Precision medicine will continue to deliver its new paradigm in cancer care and reach more patients.
  • Immunotherapy will deliver on its promise to dismantle cancer’s armory across tumor types.
  • AI will help guide the development of individually matched
  • genetic patient screenings
  • the promise of liquid biopsy policing of disease?

Pardis Sabeti, PhD

Professor, Harvard University & Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

  • the development and integration of tools into an early-warning system embedded into healthcare systems around the world could revolutionize infectious disease detection and response.
  • But this will only happen with a commitment from the global community.

Els Toreele, PhD

Executive director, Médecins Sans Frontières Access Campaign

  • we need a paradigm shift such that medicines are no longer lucrative market commodities but are global public health goods—available to all those who need them.
  • This will require members of the scientific community to go beyond their role as researchers and actively engage in R&D policy reform mandating health research in the public interest and ensuring that the results of their work benefit many more people.
  • The global research community can lead the way toward public-interest driven health innovation, by undertaking collaborative open science and piloting not-for-profit R&D strategies that positively impact people’s lives globally.

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Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

Effective humoral immune responses to infection and immunization are defined by high-affinity antibodies generated as a result of B cell differentiation and selection that occurs within germinal centers (GC). Within the GC, B cells undergo affinity maturation, an iterative and competitive process wherein B cells mutate their immunoglobulin genes (somatic hypermutation) and undergo clonal selection by competing for T cell help. Balancing the decision to remain within the GC and continue participating in affinity maturation or to exit the GC as a plasma cell (PC) or memory B cell (MBC) is critical for achieving optimal antibody avidity, antibody quantity, and establishing immunological memory in response to immunization or infection. Humoral immune responses during chronic infections are often dysregulated and characterized by hypergammaglobulinemia, decreased affinity maturation, and delayed development of neutralizing antibodies. Previous studies have suggested that poor antibody quality is in part due to deletion of B cells prior to establishment of the GC response.

 

In fact the impact of chronic infections on B cell fate decisions in the GC remains poorly understood. To address this question, researchers used single-cell transcriptional profiling of virus-specific GC B cells to test the hypothesis that chronic viral infection disrupted GC B cell fate decisions leading to suboptimal humoral immunity. These studies revealed a critical GC differentiation checkpoint that is disrupted by chronic infection, specifically at the point of dark zone re-entry. During chronic viral infection, virus-specific GC B cells were shunted towards terminal plasma cell (PC) or memory B cell (MBC) fates at the expense of continued participation in the GC. Early GC exit was associated with decreased B cell mutational burden and antibody quality. Persisting antigen and inflammation independently drove facets of dysregulation, with a key role for inflammation in directing premature terminal GC B cell differentiation and GC exit. Thus, the present research defines GC defects during chronic viral infection and identify a critical GC checkpoint that is short-circuited, preventing optimal maturation of humoral immunity.

 

Together, these studies identify a key GC B cell differentiation checkpoint that is dysregulated during chronic infection. Further, it was found that the chronic inflammatory environment, rather than persistent antigen, is sufficient to drive altered GC B cell differentiation during chronic infection even against unrelated antigens. However, the data also indicate that inflammatory circuits are likely linked to perception of antigen stimulation. Nevertheless, this study reveals a B cell-intrinsic program of transcriptional skewing in chronic viral infection that results in shunting out of the cyclic GC B cell process and early GC exit with consequences for antibody quality and hypergammaglobulinemia. These findings have implications for vaccination in individuals with pre-existing chronic infections where antibody responses are often ineffective and suggest that modulation of inflammatory pathways may be therapeutically useful to overcome impaired humoral immunity and foster affinity maturation during chronic viral infections.

 

References:

 

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/849844v1

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25656706

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27653600

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26912368

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26799208

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23001146

 

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Single-cell RNA-seq helps in finding intra-tumoral heterogeneity in pancreatic cancer

Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

4.3.6

4.3.6  Single-cell RNA-seq helps in finding intra-tumoral heterogeneity in pancreatic cancer, Volume 2 (Volume Two: Latest in Genomics Methodologies for Therapeutics: Gene Editing, NGS and BioInformatics, Simulations and the Genome Ontology), Part 4: Single Cell Genomics

Pancreatic cancer is a significant cause of cancer mortality; therefore, the development of early diagnostic strategies and effective treatment is essential. Improvements in imaging technology, as well as use of biomarkers are changing the way that pancreas cancer is diagnosed and staged. Although progress in treatment for pancreas cancer has been incremental, development of combination therapies involving both chemotherapeutic and biologic agents is ongoing.

Cancer is an evolutionary disease, containing the hallmarks of an asexually reproducing unicellular organism subject to evolutionary paradigms. Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a particularly robust example of this phenomenon. Genomic features indicate that pancreatic cancer cells are selected for fitness advantages when encountering the geographic and resource-depleted constraints of the microenvironment. Phenotypic adaptations to these pressures help disseminated cells to survive in secondary sites, a major clinical problem for patients with this disease.

The immune system varies in cell types, states, and locations. The complex networks, interactions, and responses of immune cells produce diverse cellular ecosystems composed of multiple cell types, accompanied by genetic diversity in antigen receptors. Within this ecosystem, innate and adaptive immune cells maintain and protect tissue function, integrity, and homeostasis upon changes in functional demands and diverse insults. Characterizing this inherent complexity requires studies at single-cell resolution. Recent advances such as massively parallel single-cell RNA sequencing and sophisticated computational methods are catalyzing a revolution in our understanding of immunology.

PDAC is the most common type of pancreatic cancer featured with high intra-tumoral heterogeneity and poor prognosis. In the present study to comprehensively delineate the PDAC intra-tumoral heterogeneity and the underlying mechanism for PDAC progression, single-cell RNA-seq (scRNA-seq) was employed to acquire the transcriptomic atlas of 57,530 individual pancreatic cells from primary PDAC tumors and control pancreases. The diverse malignant and stromal cell types, including two ductal subtypes with abnormal and malignant gene expression profiles respectively, were identified in PDAC.

The researchers found that the heterogenous malignant subtype was composed of several subpopulations with differential proliferative and migratory potentials. Cell trajectory analysis revealed that components of multiple tumor-related pathways and transcription factors (TFs) were differentially expressed along PDAC progression. Furthermore, it was found a subset of ductal cells with unique proliferative features were associated with an inactivation state in tumor-infiltrating T cells, providing novel markers for the prediction of antitumor immune response. Together, the findings provided a valuable resource for deciphering the intra-tumoral heterogeneity in PDAC and uncover a connection between tumor intrinsic transcriptional state and T cell activation, suggesting potential biomarkers for anticancer treatment such as targeted therapy and immunotherapy.

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31273297

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21491194

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27444064

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28983043

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24976721

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27693023

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scPopCorn: A New Computational Method for Subpopulation Detection and their Comparative Analysis Across Single-Cell Experiments

Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

4.2.5

4.2.5   scPopCorn: A New Computational Method for Subpopulation Detection and their Comparative Analysis Across Single-Cell Experiments, Volume 2 (Volume Two: Latest in Genomics Methodologies for Therapeutics: Gene Editing, NGS and BioInformatics, Simulations and the Genome Ontology), Part 4: Single Cell Genomics

Present day technological advances have facilitated unprecedented opportunities for studying biological systems at single-cell level resolution. For example, single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) enables the measurement of transcriptomic information of thousands of individual cells in one experiment. Analyses of such data provide information that was not accessible using bulk sequencing, which can only assess average properties of cell populations. Single-cell measurements, however, can capture the heterogeneity of a population of cells. In particular, single-cell studies allow for the identification of novel cell types, states, and dynamics.

One of the most prominent uses of the scRNA-seq technology is the identification of subpopulations of cells present in a sample and comparing such subpopulations across samples. Such information is crucial for understanding the heterogeneity of cells in a sample and for comparative analysis of samples from different conditions, tissues, and species. A frequently used approach is to cluster every dataset separately, inspect marker genes for each cluster, and compare these clusters in an attempt to determine which cell types were shared between samples. This approach, however, relies on the existence of predefined or clearly identifiable marker genes and their consistent measurement across subpopulations.

Although the aligned data can then be clustered to reveal subpopulations and their correspondence, solving the subpopulation-mapping problem by performing global alignment first and clustering second overlooks the original information about subpopulations existing in each experiment. In contrast, an approach addressing this problem directly might represent a more suitable solution. So, keeping this in mind the researchers developed a computational method, single-cell subpopulations comparison (scPopCorn), that allows for comparative analysis of two or more single-cell populations.

The performance of scPopCorn was tested in three distinct settings. First, its potential was demonstrated in identifying and aligning subpopulations from single-cell data from human and mouse pancreatic single-cell data. Next, scPopCorn was applied to the task of aligning biological replicates of mouse kidney single-cell data. scPopCorn achieved the best performance over the previously published tools. Finally, it was applied to compare populations of cells from cancer and healthy brain tissues, revealing the relation of neoplastic cells to neural cells and astrocytes. Consequently, as a result of this integrative approach, scPopCorn provides a powerful tool for comparative analysis of single-cell populations.

This scPopCorn is basically a computational method for the identification of subpopulations of cells present within individual single-cell experiments and mapping of these subpopulations across these experiments. Different from other approaches, scPopCorn performs the tasks of population identification and mapping simultaneously by optimizing a function that combines both objectives. When applied to complex biological data, scPopCorn outperforms previous methods. However, it should be kept in mind that scPopCorn assumes the input single-cell data to consist of separable subpopulations and it is not designed to perform a comparative analysis of single cell trajectories datasets that do not fulfill this constraint.

Several innovations developed in this work contributed to the performance of scPopCorn. First, unifying the above-mentioned tasks into a single problem statement allowed for integrating the signal from different experiments while identifying subpopulations within each experiment. Such an incorporation aids the reduction of biological and experimental noise. The researchers believe that the ideas introduced in scPopCorn not only enabled the design of a highly accurate identification of subpopulations and mapping approach, but can also provide a stepping stone for other tools to interrogate the relationships between single cell experiments.

References:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405471219301887

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/23307706.2017.1397554

https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/4031383

https://genomebiology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13059-016-0927-y

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405471216302666

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Newly Found Functions of B Cell

Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

4.1.8

4.1.8   Newly Found Functions of B Cell, Volume 2 (Volume Two: Latest in Genomics Methodologies for Therapeutics: Gene Editing, NGS and BioInformatics, Simulations and the Genome Ontology), Part 4: Single Cell Genomics

The importance of B cells to human health is more than what is already known. Vaccines capable of eradicating disease activate B cells, cancer checkpoint blockade therapies are produced using B cells, and B cell deficiencies have devastating impacts. B cells have been a subject of fascination since at least the 1800s. The notion of a humoral branch to immunity emerged from the work of and contemporaries studying B cells in the early 1900s.

Efforts to understand how we could make antibodies from B cells against almost any foreign surface while usually avoiding making them against self, led to Burnet’s clonal selection theory. This was followed by the molecular definition of how a diversity of immunoglobulins can arise by gene rearrangement in developing B cells. Recombination activating gene (RAG)-dependent processes of V-(D)-J rearrangement of immunoglobulin (Ig) gene segments in developing B cells are now known to be able to generate an enormous amount of antibody diversity (theoretically at least 1016 possible variants).

With so much already known, B cell biology might be considered ‘‘done’’ with only incremental advances still to be made, but instead, there is great activity in the field today with numerous major challenges that remain. For example, efforts are underway to develop vaccines that induce broadly neutralizing antibody responses, to understand how autoantigen- and allergen-reactive antibodies arise, and to harness B cell-depletion therapies to correct non-autoantibody-mediated diseases, making it evident that there is still an enormous amount we do not know about B cells and much work to be done.

Multiple self-tolerance checkpoints exist to remove autoreactive specificities from the B cell repertoire or to limit the ability of such cells to secrete autoantigen-binding antibody. These include receptor editing and deletion in immature B cells, competitive elimination of chronically autoantigen binding B cells in the periphery, and a state of anergy that disfavors PC (plasma cell) differentiation. Autoantibody production can occur due to failures in these checkpoints or in T cell self-tolerance mechanisms. Variants in multiple genes are implicated in increasing the likelihood of checkpoint failure and of autoantibody production occurring.

Autoantibodies are pathogenic in a number of human diseases including SLE (Systemic lupus erythematosus), pemphigus vulgaris, Grave’s disease, and myasthenia gravis. B cell depletion therapy using anti-CD20 antibody has been protective in some of these diseases such as pemphigus vulgaris, but not others such as SLE and this appears to reflect the contribution of SLPC (Short lived plasma cells) versus LLPC (Long lived plasma cells) to autoantibody production and the inability of even prolonged anti-CD20 treatment to eliminate the later. These clinical findings have added to the importance of understanding what factors drive SLPC versus LLPC development and what the requirements are to support LLPCs.

B cell depletion therapy has also been efficacious in several other autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis (MS), type 1 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). While the potential contributions of autoantibodies to the pathology of these diseases are still being explored, autoantigen presentation has been posited as another mechanism for B cell disease-promoting activity.

In addition to autoimmunity, B cells play an important role in allergic diseases. IgE antibodies specific for allergen components sensitize mast cells and basophils for rapid degranulation in response to allergen exposures at various sites, such as in the intestine (food allergy), nose (allergic rhinitis), and lung (allergic asthma). IgE production may thus be favored under conditions that induce weak B cell responses and minimal GC (Germinal center) activity, thereby enabling IgE+ B cells and/or PCs to avoid being outcompeted by IgG+ cells. Aside from IgE antibodies, B cells may also contribute to allergic inflammation through their interactions with T cells.

B cells have also emerged as an important source of the immunosuppressive cytokine IL-10. Mouse studies revealed that B cell-derived IL-10 can promote recovery from EAE (Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis) and can be protective in models of RA and type 1 diabetes. Moreover, IL-10 production from B cells restrains T cell responses during some viral and bacterial infections. These findings indicate that the influence of B cells on the cytokine milieu will be context dependent.

The presence of B cells in a variety of solid tumor types, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and melanoma, has been associated in some studies with a positive prognosis. The mechanism involved is unclear but could include antigen presentation to CD4 and CD8 T cells, antibody production and subsequent enhancement of presentation, or by promoting tertiary lymphoid tissue formation and local T cell accumulation. It is also noteworthy that B cells frequently make antibody responses to cancer antigens and this has led to efforts to use antibodies from cancer patients as biomarkers of disease and to identify immunotherapy targets.

Malignancies of B cells themselves are a common form of hematopoietic cancer. This predilection arises because the gene modifications that B cells undergo during development and in immune responses are not perfect in their fidelity, and antibody responses require extensive B cell proliferation. The study of B cell lymphomas and their associated genetic derangements continues to be illuminating about requirements for normal B cell differentiation and signaling while also leading to the development of targeted therapies.

Overall this study attempted to capture some of the advances in the understanding of B cell biology that have occurred since the turn of the century. These include important steps forward in understanding how B cells encounter antigens, the co-stimulatory and cytokine requirements for their proliferation and differentiation, and how properties of the B cell receptor, the antigen, and helper T cells influence B cell responses. Many advances continue to transform the field including the impact of deep sequencing technologies on understanding B cell repertoires, the IgA-inducing microbiome, and the genetic defects in humans that compromise or exaggerate B cell responses or give rise to B cell malignancies.

Other advances that are providing insight include:

  • single-cell approaches to define B cell heterogeneity,
  • glycomic approaches to study effector sugars on antibodies,
  • new methods to study human B cell responses including CRISPR-based manipulation, and
  • the use of systems biology to study changes at the whole organism level.

With the recognition that B cells and antibodies are involved in most types of immune response and the realization that inflammatory processes contribute to a wider range of diseases than previously believed, including, for example, metabolic syndrome and neurodegeneration, it is expected that further

  • basic research-driven discovery about B cell biology will lead to more and improved approaches to maintain health and fight disease in the future.

References:

https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(19)30278-8

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/hon.2405

https://www.pnas.org/content/115/18/4743

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/all.12911

https://cshperspectives.cshlp.org/content/10/5/a028795

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0049017218304955

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Extracellular RNA and their carriers in disease diagnosis and therapy, Volume 2 (Volume Two: Latest in Genomics Methodologies for Therapeutics: Gene Editing, NGS and BioInformatics, Simulations and the Genome Ontology), Part 1: Next Generation Sequencing (NGS)

Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

RNA plays various roles in determining how the information in our genes drives cell behavior. One of its roles is to carry information encoded by our genes from the cell nucleus to the rest of the cell where it can be acted on by other cell components. Rresearchers have now defined how RNA also participates in transmitting information outside cells, known as extracellular RNA or exRNA. This new role of RNA in cell-to-cell communication has led to new discoveries of potential disease biomarkers and therapeutic targets. Cells using RNA to talk to each other is a significant shift in the general thought process about RNA biology.

 

Researchers explored basic exRNA biology, including how exRNA molecules and their transport packages (or carriers) were made, how they were expelled by producer cells and taken up by target cells, and what the exRNA molecules did when they got to their destination. They encountered surprising complexity both in the types of carriers that transport exRNA molecules between cells and in the different types of exRNA molecules associated with the carriers. The researchers had to be exceptionally creative in developing molecular and data-centric tools to begin making sense of the complexity, and found that the type of carrier affected how exRNA messages were sent and received.

 

As couriers of information between cells, exRNA molecules and their carriers give researchers an opportunity to intercept exRNA messages to see if they are associated with disease. If scientists could change or engineer designer exRNA messages, it may be a new way to treat disease. The researchers identified potential exRNA biomarkers for nearly 30 diseases including cardiovascular disease, diseases of the brain and central nervous system, pregnancy complications, glaucoma, diabetes, autoimmune diseases and multiple types of cancer.

 

As for example some researchers found that exRNA in urine showed promise as a biomarker of muscular dystrophy where current studies rely on markers obtained through painful muscle biopsies. Some other researchers laid the groundwork for exRNA as therapeutics with preliminary studies demonstrating how researchers might load exRNA molecules into suitable carriers and target carriers to intended recipient cells, and determining whether engineered carriers could have adverse side effects. Scientists engineered carriers with designer RNA messages to target lab-grown breast cancer cells displaying a certain protein on their surface. In an animal model of breast cancer with the cell surface protein, the researchers showed a reduction in tumor growth after engineered carriers deposited their RNA cargo.

 

Other than the above research work the scientists also created a catalog of exRNA molecules found in human biofluids like plasma, saliva and urine. They analyzed over 50,000 samples from over 2000 donors, generating exRNA profiles for 13 biofluids. This included over 1000 exRNA profiles from healthy volunteers. The researchers found that exRNA profiles varied greatly among healthy individuals depending on characteristics like age and environmental factors like exercise. This means that exRNA profiles can give important and detailed information about health and disease, but careful comparisons need to be made with exRNA data generated from people with similar characteristics.

 

Next the researchers will develop tools to efficiently and reproducibly isolate, identify and analyze different carrier types and their exRNA cargos and allow analysis of one carrier and its cargo at a time. These tools will be shared with the research community to fill gaps in knowledge generated till now and to continue to move this field forward.

 

References:

 

https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/scientists-explore-new-roles-rna

 

https://www.cell.com/consortium/exRNA

 

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160606120230.htm

 

https://www.pasteur.fr/en/multiple-roles-rnas

 

https://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/rna-functions-352

 

https://www.umassmed.edu/rti/biology/role-of-rna-in-biology/

 

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